Astri and Greta live with their aunt and uncle on a farm in Norway. Their mother has died and their father has gone to America to find a better life. The aunt sells Astri to a goatman, Mr. Svaalberd, who doesn’t treat her very well. On the goatman’s farm she finds Spinning Girl who doesn’t talk but spins beautiful wool. Astri is determined to run away and find a better life for her and Greta. When she does finally get away, she is pursued by the goatman throughout her journey. Astri, Greta and Spinning Girl make their way to the coast and a ship to America. Turns out the money Astri stole from goatman will not get them all on the ship. Spinning Girl is left behind as Greta and Astri sail for America. Throughout the story Astri recounts tales and legends, mainly East of the Sun West of the Moon, to help her get through her horrible days. This is a time in history when the old ways have not given way to the new Christian beliefs completely. There is talk of trolls and huldrefolk and magic spells and rituals. It is an interesting mix of fantasy and reality in this historical tale. I found a lot of the historical information really interesting, especially how people had to supply themselves for voyages to America. I am not sure how many fans this book will find among the intended age group though. It is a little confusing with the mix of fantasy and reality and is plenty violent. I really wanted to like it more than I did.
I received this book from Netgalley.
This is the 2nd book in the Sabriel trilogy. It picks up 14 years after Sabriel killed Kerigor and takes the viewpoints of Sabriel’s son, Prince Sameth, the Abhorsen-in-waiting, and of Lirael a daugher of the Clayr who are able to see into the future. We meet Lirael at age 14 long after most Clayr have obtained the “Sight”, who has given up hope that she will ever become a ‘normal’ Farseer, like the rest of her community. Lirael eventually becomes a librarian (and what a kick-butt occupation this is in this world), and has adventurous encounters in the library with her newly acquired magical companion “the Disreputable Dog”. At the same time Prince Sameth tries to study the Book of the Dead in order to master the bells, to help his mother and eventually to become the Abhorsen. However, he experiences panic attacks when he tries to interact with the book. Eventually the 2 characters cross paths. Their interactions are delightful. Some of the surprises were easy to foresee, but I found this a very enjoyable read. Beware,it ends on a cliffhanger.
Mortal Heart is the conclusion to one of my favorite trilogies. I am not sure you can go wrong with a series about medieval assassin nuns. This is Annith’s story. We have seen Annith get left behind each time one of her sisters has gone out on a mission. Now she wants to know why. Annith is the most skilled of all the initiates of Mortain. When a young, unskilled sister is sent out in her stead Annith rebels and confronts the Abbess. She learns she is meant to be the order’s seer and locked in the convent for the rest of her life. Annith wants none of that and sets out on her own to find answers. Along the way she rides with the Hellequin (Death’s riders) and the followers of St. Arduinna. She joins her sisters Sybella and Ismae in the service of the Duchess of Brittany. She discovers the truth of her origins, why she was held back at the convent and true love on her journey.
Annith is a fantastic character. She is strong and righteous and a true believer in the old gods. It is her faith that plays the biggest part in this book as she comes face to face with the old gods and learns what her role is. I love how this series ties actual historical events into the story. Duchess Anne really was besieged by the French and on the brink of losing her country. I thought the fantasy elements really worked with this story. I loved the Hellequin, which seemed like a wonderful mix of a biker gang and an old west posse. I wasn’t sure how the whole romance thing was going to turn out but I loved how it did. My only complaint about the book was the loose ends. I wanted everything tied up by the last page and it wasn’t. We never found out what really happened to Matelaine for instance. Those are just small quibbles though as this was a wonderful end to the series. I do hope the author returns to this world in future books as she really made this time period come alive and I want to know more.
Todd’s room has got to be the grossest ever. There are dirty clothes and dishes everywhere, he has food stashed under his bed, and I am not sure he has ever cleaned. All this filth leads to new life however when Todd discovers his gross gym sock has created a race of tiny people. The Toddlians worship Todd as their supreme creator. Todd has no idea what to do with them so he enlists the help of is homeschooled neighbor Lucy. Unfortunately, Todd is also bullied and has to let bully Max Loving use the Toddlians for their science project to survive middle school. Max, being the bully he is, also bullies the Toddlians. Todd has to come to terms with his responsibility towards the Toddlians and save them from the evil clutches of Max.
This book is definitely geared towards boys as I think girls would just be grossed out. It reminded me a lot of other books with tiny races like The Indian in the Cupboard, The Carpet People or The Borrowers. I liked Todd’s struggle with his role in the lives of the Toddlians. I also really enjoyed his younger sister Daisy and the three main Toddlian characters. I thought the bullying story seemed pretty realistic but I wanted more repercussions for Max at the end. Definitely not my favorite book, but not the worst thing I have read either.
A beautifully illustrated graphic novel version of the story of the last unicorn. I first encountered this story as a movie inspired by the story also by Peter S. Beagle. The story leads our heroes to question what their purpose in life is and what is worth fighting and possibly dying for.
An English translation with beautifully detailed Gothic illustrations. Victoria Frances relates the memories of a vampires and the ladies that haunt him including his one true love through time. Full of forbidden love, magic, lost innocence and longing.
Amy Gumm thought life was tough in the trailer park with her druggie, depressed mother and the mean girls in school. But that was before before she was carried to Oz by a tornado, before she was rescued by a series of strange individuals, and before she was instructed, Dorothy must die. Sweet Dorothy returned to Oz only to rule it with an evil, greedy hand, gradually stealing all its magic for herself. Amy, also from Kansas and arriving on a tornado, has to reverse the earthling’s power by killing her. Paige has spirited readers back to The Wizard of Oz, fracturing the already strange classic by having good and wicked witches exchange places, amputating the flying monkeys’ wings, and creating a fear-eating lion, a nefarious Dr. Jekyll scarecrow, and a vicious tin soldier. Amy’s assignment? Navigate through magical defenses, while struggling with her own values of good and evil, to get to Dorothy
Mortal Heart concludes the amazing “His Fair Assassin” series. This time it’s Annith’s story. Annith was brought to the convent of Mortain (a pagan god of death) as a baby and has been living and training there ever since. She’s easily one of the most accomplished initiates, particularly in archery. Annith has been frustrated lately as her sisters Ismae and Sybella were sent out before her in spite of their minimal training. When a 15-year-old initiate is sent out instead of Annith, Annith begins to seriously question the abbess’s judgement. Then Annith finds out that the abbess intends to make her the next Seeress, a role that will necessarily sequester Annith in a closed room for the rest of her life, she is livid. The abbess gives her only one other option: if Annith won’t do as she’s bid, she will be forced to leave the convent for good. After a brief stint nursing the current Seeress back to health, Annith leaves the convent to track down the abbess, who is seeing to the duchess’s affairs. It’s time the abbess knew what Annith really thinks about the plans for making her Seeress. Of course, there will be more than a few surprises, revelations and adventures along the way. I’ve been loving this series from the moment I heard “assassin nuns”. Each one has centered on a different sister in the convent of St. Mortain and all three stories center around the court of Duchess Anne and their struggles to maintain Breton independence from the French. What is even cooler is that Anne was a real person and her fictional character dovetails nicely with her historical one. There are a few minor anachronisms/liberties taken with the course of historical events, but these are noted in an author’s note at the end of the book. Annith’s story was everything I had hoped it would be. She is every bit as strong, intelligent and skilled (even more so, really)as any of her predecessors, though her story is completely her own. It is, of course, fun and edifying to see Ismae and Sybella again, though through the eyes of someone else. Part of the joy of this series is how well-constructed and well-written it is. The books are long, but the pacing is swift. The voice of each character rings true and distinct. For fans of the previous two books, this is a no-brainer. For newcomers, well, they’ll be missing out on a couple of levels, but this book would even work as a stand-alone.
Blackwell, SD is not your average small town. For one, it’s populated almost entirely by descendents of the Norse gods Thor and Loki. Matt Thorsen and his classmates Laurie and Fen Brekke are no exception. As far as Matt is concerned, the Norse myths are really cool, but they’re just stories. No one really believes them, right? Except that Matt’s grandfather does and apparently, so do many of the other town’s elders. When Matt dreams of Ragnarok (the end of the world, according to Norse mythology), he begins to realize that there might actually be some truth to these stories. Then, at a town meeting, everyone is informed that Ragnarok is real and that all the signs have been pointing to it happening soon. Descendents of the gods will be acting as their stand-ins as the battle commences. Unfortunately for Matt, he has been named champion. Now he needs to gather the rest of the godly descendents, starting with Laurie and Fen, distant descendents of Loki. Did I mention that Loki and Thor were enemies at Ragnarok? Yup, things are going to get really interesting for Matt.
Loki’s Wolves is a fun middle grade series opener in the vein of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson. Parallels abound: a trio of magical kids (two boys and a girl, no less), one of whom is made leader by circumstance (technically against his will) and everything will be devastated if they don’t complete their quest. This is not to say that it’s derivative or anything like that, but it will certainly appeal to readers of both series. I personally had some trouble with the writing and a few plot points, but my middle grade readers loved the book through and through, so I suppose my issues are mere trifles. Overall, an entertaining and fast-paced read.
Chuck and Dakota are off on their second adventure. This time they stow away on Marco Pollo’s ship the Swashbuckler in search of the Coral Crown. They are pursued by catfish Kingfisher who wants the crown for himself. Another fun adventure for new chapter book readers. Dakota and Chuck are really cute characters and their adventures are fun ones kids will enjoy.
Chuck Porter wants nothing more than adventure. Unfortunately, his island home of Bermooda offers none. The hu’mans are gone and all the treasures from their time in the world are collected. Then he finds Dakota marooned on a sandbar. Dakota is one of the dreaded hu’mans. Chuck is determined to help his new friend so he disguises him as a cow, one from the sea, and brings him home as a guest. Everything is not alright on Bermooda however and it is up to Chuck and Dakota to figure it out and stop it before it is too late. This was a really cute beginning chapter book. It will be a nice transition series between easy readers and more complex chapter books.
Maggie Stiefvater hits another out of the stadium! Wow, this book is so much better than the last title I read by Stiefvater – that being Sinner. Stiefvater creates so much atmosphere and the setting itself is sort of alive.
Blue’s mother, Maura, is missing, she went underground looking for Artemis (Blue’s father), but hasn’t returned for weeks. The Professor from Britain, whom Gansey studied with, has joined the boys on their hu
nt for Glendower. Gray Man’s boss, Greenmantle comes to town, along with his wife Piper, looking for vengeance against Gray abandoning the job he was supposed to complete for him (in the last book). Adam and Ronan work together on a project. And where is Neve?
I thought this might be the conclusion to the series, however, the epilogue lets you know differently. I’m so glad there will be more to this series!
It is 1952, the height of the polio epidemic, Franny is 11-years-old and suffering from polio. She is confined to a wheelchair and all her friends have abandoned her. She is bored and lonely and frustrated until she starts receiving notes from Fleabrain. Fleabrain is the only surviving flea on Alf the dog. He is super intellectual and a voracious reader. Fleabrain becomes Franny’s only source of entertainment during her recovery. Fleabrain also has magical powers and is able to shrink Franny or take her around the world during the night.
This was probably one of the worst books I have read in a long time. I pretty much disliked the story from the beginning. I kept waiting for the Fleabrain storyline to be part of a dream or Franny’s imagination or something. The fact that it was treated as real just made the story so very unbelievable. I think a book about a young girl suffering from polio and everything she had to deal with would have been really interesting on its own and something we haven’t really seen in middle grade fiction. However, the entire flea storyline just ruined the entire book.
This beautifully illustrated comic book written by Kate Leth picks up many years after the end of the Tim Burton movie. Eli has shared her stories of the man living in the haunted mansion on the hill with her granddaughter who believes her grandmother. Unfortunately, Eli’s daughter thinks her mom was crazy. This is the first comic in a series. Don’t miss the illustrations by Drew Rausch.
In this first book of the series, we get the viewpoint of AuRon, the clutchwinner (male dragon hatchling who wins the fight after the male eggs hatch). AuRon is a grey dragon, and unusual because he lacks scales. This is his tale from the eggshelf, the death of his parents, his capture by humans, dwarves, elves, his escape, then journey across the mountains, his tenure/apprenticeship with NooMoahk one of oldest surviving dragons, and AuRon’s revenge on the human’s who are enslaving dragons and wiping out the other species of hominids. This is a fast moving tale with adventure, battles, skirmishes, and an extended apprenticeship with the great black Dragon NooMoahk (I find I usually really enjoy these periods of scholarship in fantasy books). I enjoyed learning more background about this dragon family. I also really liked how the author depicted weaknesses that could be turned into strengths (AuRon’s lack of scales). I also enjoyed being introduced to character’s early on in the book, and then meeting them in their changed (mostly for the better) adult forms later on.
Soren and his band of owls, search for and find the Island of Hoole with the great Ga’Hoole Tree. This is a institution of learning similar to Hogwarts. Here they are divided into different “chaws” or teams that learn a specific skill. Soren and talkative Otolisa are placed in the colliering and weather in a chaw where they learn to transport hot coals to use in the smithy. Evenutally, a bunch of downed owls are discovered brought home to the GaHool tree among them is Soren’s sister Eglantine. These downed owls are in some weird mental state, that is disrupted with mirrors. I read this in disjointed bits and pieces over an extended period of time, thus I don’t have a great feel for how good of a read it really is.
This is a fast-paced urban fantasy novel with romance thrown in. The protagonist Lily Yu is a detective investigating a murder that appears to have been committed by a werewolf. Or is someone framing the Lupi and planning to wipe them from the face of the earth. The romance aspect was fine and didn’t annoy me too much. I look forward to the next title in the series.
Call Hunt is probably the only kid who ever tried to fail at getting into the Magisterium. Call’s father is a mage so Call knows about magic, but his father hasn’t done any magic since Call was a baby. Call’s mom was killed in the last mage war, leaving only a note that said to kill the child. Despite all his efforts Call does get into mage school and is whisked off to be an apprentice for the most prestigious mage Master Rufus. Along with Tamara and Aaron, Call studies magic and learns to fit in at school. There are the typical school situations, Jasper the Bully, Celia the Crush, Drew the Bullied and of course the unspeakable evil who wants to destroy everything. Call is also given more information about how his mother died, what his father actually thinks of him and the truth behind his background. The last is a pretty big shocker that is definitely going to play out in future books.
I admit that I thought this book was a bit of a chore to get through. The comparisons to Harry Potter are plentiful and this book just doesn’t compare in terms of story and quality. Call is definitely no Harry. In fact, he is an obnoxious brat a lot of the time and not the easiest character to root for. A lot of the other characters just seemed one dimensional and under-developed. The world building is decent, but I thought the magic and the previous wars could have been fleshed out a bit. It is set in the modern real world, but it doesn’t really explain how magic interacts with the world. It seems that normal people don’t know about magic yet there are all these chaos animals out there and there have been a lot of mage wars. Not sure how they keep all that from the general public. This is the beginning of a five-part series; not sure I’ll read the rest but I do hope it improves.
Charlie Laird has been having nightmares ever since his family moved into the purple mansion. Charlie’s mom died several years ago and his dad just married Charlotte. Charlie thinks Charlotte is a witch and haunting his dreams. Every night he battles the witch in the netherworld (the land of nightmares). Because he is not sleeping well he has become crabby and mean during the day. He is driving everyone away including his dad and his little brother Jack. One night Charlie goes through a portal into the netherworld. He realizes he may never get back home unless he faces his fears. He has help from a couple of nightmares, Meduso and Dabney, and from his friends who were also having nightmares. Together they must defeat the evil president of the world and his goblin army as well as face their own nightmares so they can go home.
So whenever I see a book written by a celebrity I am usually pretty skeptical. Did the celebrity really write the thing? Was it only published because the person was famous? Is it going to be as terrible as I think it will be? So I had pretty low expectations when I started reading Nightmares! and boy was I surprised when it turned out to be an entertaining read. It think this is a book that is going to appeal to a lot of readers. It has just the right amount of scariness: not so scary it will give kids real nightmares, but scary enough to keep it interesting. I think a lot of kids will also be able to relate to Charlie as well. This is a story about dealing with your fears and facing what scares you. Everyone is scared of something.